A few extra kilos won't hurt you - US govt study

BMI can be a misleading; more so for sportspeople like Piri Weepu (TV3)

Overweight people are less likely to die in any given period than people of normal weight, according to a US government study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.

The study is not a ticket to break your New Year resolution.

It found that if you are grade 2 or grade 3 obese - or at the fattest end of the body mass index (BMI) scale - you are more likely to die than a person of normal weight during any given period.

But if you are grade 1 obese, you are actually 5% less less likely to die than a person of normal weight during any given time period.

And if you are merely overweight, you are 6% less likely to die.

Doctors say there is overwhelming evidence that eating properly and exercising are good for your health.

Yet the study the study highlights the so-called "obesity paradox" - that overweight or grade 1 obese people suffering heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease have less chance of dying during a given time period than fellow suffers with a normal BMI; possibly because of their greaer metabolic reserves.

The Study used the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's terminology with categories of underweight (BMI of <18.5), normal weight (BMI of 18.5-<25), overweight (BMI of 25-<30), and obesity (BMI of ≥30). Grade 1 obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 to less than 35; grade 2 obesity, a BMI of 35 to less than 40; and grade 3 obesity, a BMI of 40 or greater. Work out your Body Mass Index number with the BMI calculator on the NZ Heart Foundation website here.

Its findings suggest that blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, waist circumference and strength and endurance tests are better measures of health than the weight-focused BMI.

One problem with BMI is that it treats all weight equally, be it good fat, bad fat or muscle - which is why it can be a misleading metric for sports people and others who are fit.

The peer-reviewed study was carried out by researchers at the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It examined the results of 97 studies from around the world involving three million people and 270,000 deaths. Read the full results here.

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9 Comments & Questions

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I must be thick. I thought everyone is 100% likely to die, regardless of weight.

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"Over any given period of time" is the operative phrase.

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I've got a distended gut that's not too unlike a Swiss ball. I feel a whole lot better after reading this.

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The whole study is fundamentally flawed as it goes purely based on the BMI. To point out how flawed the BMI is every single bodybuilder and every elite rugby player would be classed obese.

So the study really tells us nothing. Maybe if they did the study again looking at body fat percentage instead we might get some results worth discussing.

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BMI was made by the WHO so global health insurance premiums would increase across the board, since, as you say, tall healthy people are obese... BMI isn't worth a god damn thing.

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Anon - Tall healthy people are not the problem for the BMI - it is those with large muscle mass.

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Well, there is scientific evidence that says caloric restriction vastly increases lifespan.

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It sure as hurt Piri Weepu last season.
Sounds like he's heeded the orders this year to return to Blues as a halfback.

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Great, just what the Blues need -- a lumbering halfback.

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